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- STRESS MANAGEMENT Making Excuses: How Much Do You Rationalize Your Actions? ~ Lisa Birnesser
I remember when I took my first yoga class a few years back. I always wanted to try yoga but came up with every excuse not to attend a class. Finally, a good friend of mine offered a gentle yoga class. I like the word “gentle”, since it didn’t imply difficult or any head stands. You see, my main excuse was I wasn’t flexible anymore. Well, wouldn’t that be part of the point of taking a yoga class? Then it turned into a competition reason. “Well, everyone else will be more flexible than me.” I had to laugh during my first class, since everyone thought the same thing- no one really could bend like a pretzel, except for the yoga teacher. I realized I had to just decide that I was going to take the class. Left to my own devices, I was going to talk myself out of it. I had to stop making excuses.
Rationalization is a coping mechanism that is designed to justify making a certain decision. It’s also handy to talk yourself into or out of doing something. This coping technique is rather tricky. Our minds can be quick to judge a situation without thoroughly thinking through the entire situation.
Another common rationalization trap is putting off happiness. It’s what I call the “I’ll be happy when” game. I worked for large health care businesses for most of my occupational therapy career. A common mind game I played was putting off my happiness by fantasizing about a different life. The problem was I did not take actions toward living my dreams. I was miserable and it was my choice to live that way. I loved working with my patients dearly but in reality my values were different than my employer’s values. It bothered me to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night. The crazy part was that I could choose to be happy at any time. I knew in my heart that I wanted to have my own private massage practice. I fantasized what it would be like to be self-employed. “I’ll be happy when I can go to massage school”, which led to “I’ll be happy when I graduate from massage school so I can have my own business.” And the list continued.
The point was that I had everything in my grasp to be happy right at any moment, even when I was miserable. I didn’t need to wait on a certain circumstance or situation. And I certainly didn’t need my mind to play tricks on me. I needed to make a decision.
When you make your next decision, big or small, be aware of the slick talker called rationalization. You determine your choices and above all, your happiness.